Neon Dreams in Night City
How it feels when Cyberpunk 2077 hits the right notes
I had just broken into a penthouse apartment with Jackie, my new friend (and apparently literal partner in crime).
Not just any penthouse, mind you; it was owned by the most powerful man in Night City. I had stepped into the lion’s mouth and was playing hacky sack with his epiglottis. Every passing second was an ever-bolder flirtation with death — or, perhaps, a fate even worse. But for a moment, time became meaningless. I was bathed in sheets of cobalt glow, radiating from tasteful light fixtures dotted around the room. Standing by the floor-to-ceiling glass, my vision of the city was obscured by dense curtains of heavy rainfall. I could barely make out the silhouettes of dark skyscrapers, standing amid the deluge like dispassionate sentinels. Pink, yellow, red; distorted neon shapes danced and popped between the buildings. Even the crude sex holograms— usually several stories tall — seemed oddly beautiful and mysterious under the forced modesty of the heavy rain. Enormous hovering freighters lumbered their way through the black sky toward the docks, their spotlights clumsily penetrating the churning supercell that was swallowing the city whole.
All of these threads coiled together through my subconscious in a matter of seconds. The dream wasn’t intruded by gunfire or an alarm, though. Rather, the creators of this world did the only thing that could have been done given the situation. They never allowed me to retreat further into the depths of the building — perhaps to some safe, floodlit exit corridor that would take me down to the street and into the cozy confines of the A.I.-powered limousine that was waiting for me. No, the only way forward was out. The moment the glass doors opened, I thought I might be sucked into the swirling abyss; it felt like smashing a window on a 747 mid-flight.
We didn’t even make it to the dimly-lit ladder at the opposite end of a frighteningly-thin ledge. Now we had to jump. The howling wind and pelting rain were deafening. Imagine falling into the eye of a category five hurricane from high above. We were sliding down a forty-five degree wall of glass, which had become a raging waterfall in the storm. I couldn’t get purchase; all I could do was lifelessly spin while picking up speed. Jackie’s face — his eyes wide with terror — would flash past. The spotlights from above, struggling to keep up, not content to let gravity kill us without first being shot. Terrifying glimpses of the empty vacuum we were hurtling toward — nothing but water, darkness, and the bustling street somewhere far below, still shrouded in stifling humidity.
What happened next was a slow car crash; the way those accidents feel from the inside. It was like waking up from a restless nightmare and trying to scream, only finding your mouth vacuum sealed. Emerging from escalating chaos into an empty, silent room — now, you’re too sober. It’s a sobriety that suddenly removes every layer of abstraction, so you can see your own skeleton under your skin. It’s too real.
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